Jug Face: Film Review

Creepy atmospherics enliven this idiosyncratic chiller.

Chad Crawford Kinkle's debut feature, set in a backwoods community, concerns a mysterious pit that demands human sacrifices.

As horror movie catchphrases go, "The pit wants what it wants" is hardly likely to enter the pantheon of "You’re going to need a bigger boat" and "I see dead people." But it accurately conveys the flavor of Jug Face, an atmospheric chiller that’s just quirky enough to achieve cult status. The film, which won a screenwriting award at the Slamdance Film Festival, is receiving a limited theatrical engagement but should garner the majority of its viewers on home video platforms.

Chad Crawford Kinkle’s debut feature is set in the sort of backwoods hillbilly community that promotes inbreeding, and that’s exactly what happens to the young heroine Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter, delivering a strong performance), who becomes pregnant by her brother Jessaby (Daniel Manche) despite being promised to another man by her domineering parents (played by veteran horror film director Larry Fessenden and B-movie stalwart Sean Young).

But that’s the least of Ada’s problems. It seems the community is in thrall to a mysterious pit that demands human sacrifices in return for keeping the area safe. The victims are dictated by visions that appear to a slow-minded potter (Sean Bridgers) who creates jugs adorned with representations of their faces, and Ada finds herself the next in line.

But the resourceful young woman manages to purloin the jug while the potter is still in his trance, and hides it in the woods. This naturally leads to all sorts of complications as Ada attempts to avoid her fate, including frequent appearances by the ghosts of the pit’s former sacrifices.

Its backstory delineated in an effective opening animated sequence, the film relies on creepy mood setting rather than cheap scares. While it suffers at times from its convoluted narrative and cheesy low-budget special effects, the sheer strangeness of the proceedings provides ample compensation, although viewers expecting more traditional horror tropes may find themselves disappointed.

Opens: Aug. 9 (Modern Distributors)

Production: (Moderncine, New Company)

Cast: Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Young, Sean Bridgers, Larry Fessenden, Daniel Manche

Director-screenwriter: Chad Crawford Kinkle

Producers: Robert Tonino, Andrew van den Houten

Executive producer: Loren Semmens

Director of photography: Chris Heinrich

Editor: Zach Passero

Production designer: Kelly Anne Ross

Costume designer: Michael Bevins

Composer: Sean Spillane

Rated R, 81 min.